OpEd Columns

Notre Dame Dream Dates Play The Field (Indianapolis Star 06/24/06)

There's a media maelstrom swirling around the Notre Dame campus these days. Plenty of pre-season pundits have picked the Irish to win it all this fall.

And plenty of loyal Irish fans have picked up Notre Dame jerseys at the campus bookstore…for their wives.

Not just any jerseys. But number 10, number 83, and number 9. Brady Quinn, Jeff Samardzija, and Tom Zbikowski.

Three players who've emerged as sports journalist magnets in the past months. Magazine articles. SportsCenter features. Promotional posters. Quinn, Samardzija, and Zbikowksi are national celebrities.

Quinn the quintessential QB, the chic Heisman Trophy frontrunner. Samardzija the Shark, the swashbuckling wide receiver-slash-future Cy Young winner. Zbikowski the brawling defensive back, and boffo pay-per-view boxer.

Three handsome gridiron heroes. Three hot prospects.

“So honey, just curious. I'm taking a poll. If you could go on a date with Brady Quinn, Jeff Samardzija, or Tom Zbikowski, whom would you choose?”

My wife knew the answer as if she'd been thinking about it for months. “Zibby. He's goooooood-looking.” (Big smile, sparkling eyes).

It's a question pondered time and again. While internet message board maniacs peruse the preseason rankings, dissect the first game matchups, and scour the nation for the next five star recruit, their wives keep it simple.

He's Hot.

The women of South Bend (and I assume wherever the fight song is sung) have their favorites. Our neighbor across the street prefers the surfer-dude Shark. My wife's best friend chooses the GQ Quinn.

A little bit Teen Beat. A little bit Mrs. Robinson. Female Irish fans are talking, and the conversations inevitably end with QS&Z.

Yes, Notre Dame football is suddenly very popular with women. And it might have something to do with attractive 21-year old men in uniforms winning football games.

“It doesn't have something to do with it,” said my wife. “It has everything to do with it.”

My wife used to sleep through the third quarter at Notre Dame Stadium. Now her eyes are peeled in case Zibby streaks (with clothes on) down the sidelines.

These guys are the Anna Kournikovas of college football. So far they haven't won a championship. But they've sure turned a lot of heads.

And I'm happy. Because now my wife enjoys Notre Dame football as much as I do.

When I was eight years old, my sisters played a board game called “Mystery Date”. After picking their game cards, and guessing the attire for the evening, my sisters opened a plastic door to see if their date was a Dream or a Dud?

Notre Dame has the Four Horsemen. Now they have the Three Dream Dates.

Handsome, wholesome hunks that play perfectly into the pop culture model of the young ultra-successful American male. Each one has his own unique O.C. appeal, depending on whether you're a blonde or brunette, prefer quiet candlelight dinners or dancing the night away.

Cue Jim Lange.

Bachelor number one is a free-spirited two-sport athlete who loves to catch long arching passes and throw fiery fastballs. He also enjoys sunset surfs and smoldering bonfires on the beach. Say hello to Jeff Samardzija. (Applause)

Bachelor number two loves tofu for two, ten mile walks, and training barefoot in the sand. He calls the plays, but is a good listener too. Say hello to Brady Quinn.

Bachelor number three works hard for his money. This big city brawler has hands of stone and a heart of gold. Always spontaneous and surprising, say hello to Tom Zbikowski.

What does this have to do with football?

Nothing if the Irish falter this fall. Everything if they finish undefeated.

A 13-0 season and National Championship will be followed by a movie, starring Orlando Bloom as Brady Quinn. Johnny Depp as Jeff Samardzija, and Leonardo DiCaprio playing Tom Zbikowski.

On reality TV, ABC will air a new season of The Bachelor with Jeff Samardzija, Fox will send Brady Quinn and his girlfriend to Temptation Island, and NBC will feature Tom Zbikowksi in a new season of The Contender.

The self-titled QS&Z will debut at number one on the Billboard pop charts with Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith, and Mickey Dolenz playing the actual instruments for the boys.

And at my house, I'll buy my wife another Notre Dame jersey.

Ted Mandell teaches in the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre at the University of Notre Dame.

Copyright 2006 Ted Mandell

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